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Telenor-Unitech deal stuck mid-way
TT Correspondent |  New Delhi |  19 Dec 2008

The arranged marriage of Norway’s Telenor and India’s real estate firm Unitech’s telecom subsidiary Unitech Wireless started on a good note with the Norwegian company committing to pick 60 percent stake for roughly Rs 6,120 crore. But it seems post honeymoon, the troubles have started to emerge in the form of financial compulsions for each of the parties involved.


The common thread binding both the firms which both fear should not break up, is that of debt. Both the firms or their parent companies are reeling under debt which is forcing them to cautiously march ahead with any financial decision.


For instance, Unitech, the parent company of Unitech Wireless is facing a consolidated debt as high as Rs 8,000 crore.  The company had recently announced measures to fill up the debt by way of selling some assets, private equity fund raising and transfer of Rs 2,000 crore as loan to its telecom business.


The company hoped to reduce the burden upon receiving first installment of payment worth $ 250 million from Telenor by the end of this year. But this seems to be not happening in the next few days. According to a report by India’s business daily, Live Mint, Telenor is pursing telecom tower sharing pacts in India for network rollout. Additionally the report says Unitech is yet to file for Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) approval. The two issues may collectively consume time and thereby further delay the infusion of payment.


Telenor meanwhile is facing pressure from its investors as well. The company witnessed a steep fall in shares as it announced that it will use the $1.72 billion rights issue option to infuse funds into the Indian venture. The situation on stock exchanges improved only after the company in November, announced that it has appointed Deutsche Bank to advise on the options to be used for the fund infusion.


The parties involved hope that the procedures and other formalities with respect to the setting up of operations in the country fasten up and they can then focus on the main business offering of providing telecom services.

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